Piqua Commissioners debate at lively meeting discussing battery burning ordinance


By Eamon Baird

[email protected]

PIQUA — Piqua City Commissioners introduced an ordinance regulating battery burning during their meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

The commissioners and members of the public quarreled during a lively back and forth.

Ward Four Commissioner Tom Hohman introduced the first reading of an ordinance to regulate burning activities upon property owned by the city of Piqua.

“We’ve only had this new commission for four months now and I think we’re working pretty fast for government work. We’ve taken several real actionable steps already and we’re about to take another huge step with this ordinance. We didn’t do this to you, but we sure as heck are going to fix it for you,” Hohman said.

After reading through the ordinance for 30 minutes Hohman became animated about recent developments in the Piqua community.

“I was concerned, and a lot of you in this city have shared those same concerns, and so I wrote this ordinance for you. But if you use this crisis as an excuse to harass our police officers, to assault college kids, to send death threats this ordinance isn’t for you. This ordinance isn’t for the out-of-towners or the people who aren’t really looking for answers or solutions.

“This ordinance isn’t for the people who are looking to participate in an endless revolution because they can’t elsewhere find meaning in their lives. This ordinance is for the people who are actually concerned. This ordinance is for the people who called us and told us you were concerned, but you weren’t with those people.

“For those of you here watching, or at home who are concerned as well, but you’re not with those people, I want you to know that you’re not alone, there’s a lot of you out there,” Hohman said.

Ward Two Commissioner Paul Simmons referred to himself as one of “those people” during the commissioner’s comments section.

“The concept of ‘those people’ predates any visitors we had from out of town, predates any videos with various members of our law enforcement community, predates any videos that they had of people on a college campus. It goes back to emails that went out that mentioned a few malcontents, which those emails went out before I got to sit in this chair, and I was out there. Hi, my name is Paul and I’m one of those people,” Simmons said to Hohman during the meeting.

Community members expressed their frustration during the citizens’ comments section of the proposed ordinance.

“Well, ‘those people’ are the ones that got the lithium-ion battery burning noticed and stopped, so those people deserve respect,” Jeff Grimes said.

“Your spirited presentation was arrogant and very disrespectful. If you had actually done what we expected we wouldn’t be here today,” Alisha Lange said.

“I regret hearing the comments about our community. We’re trying to work very hard with them. We consider them to be sincerely concerned and disturbed by all these events and I think you should give them more credit,” said Nancy Roof, who serves on the Fire Committee.

Miami Valley Today reached out to Hohman and Simmons to get their thoughts about the meeting.

“Commissioner Hohman may have qualified last night his statements by saying that equating those people to people who are confrontational with the police or confrontational with college students,” Simmons said. “The whole notion of separating or segregating people or dividing our city started out with emails about people who are concerned about their city and being called malcontents.”

“I will abide by the decisions that got made. I’m going to keep both eyes open and both ears open and if I see anything that’s incorrect or inappropriate I’m going to call attention to it,” he added.

Hohman released the following statement to the Miami Valley Today:

“I stand by everything I said at the May 7 commission meeting. Concerning the battery burning, this commission’s top priorities are to find out what happened, and to make sure it never happens again. This commission took a major step forward with the creation of the investigation committee, though Commissioner Simmons voted to oppose it. We took another major step with the introduction of the ordinance to regulate burning activity on city property.

“I am proud of the ordinance I presented. It directly addresses the fear our community has that this could happen again. It took a lot of effort doing the research and collaborating with city staff to refine this ordinance into something that comprehensively targets the problem without creating a mass of unintended consequences. I am thankful to my fellow commissioners who chose to actively contribute to this effort.

“Much of this community is concerned about what went on out there. Many have contacted me to support the actions being taken, and to distance themselves from a small group of disrupters that would rather have chaos than solutions. I have not accused anyone of being a part of that group, nor will I begrudge anyone the right of exercising their First Amendment-protected speech to self-identify as someone who used this crisis as an excuse to harass our police officers, assault students, and send death threats,” his statement concluded.

The commissioners approved the first reading of the ordinance, with one amendment proposed by Simmons making offenses for illegal burns conducted by the city $1,500 for a first offense, $3,000 for a second offense, and $5,000 for a third offense. The amendment was approved by a 4-1 vote, with Ward One Commissioner Jim Vetter voting “no.”

The second reading for the ordinance will take place at the next Piqua City Commission meeting on Tuesday, May 21.

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